My plan to protect our democracy and tackle corruption in Washington

We need to take money out of politics, expand voting rights, and make our systems more transparent so that we can truly have a government that works by and for the people.

Kirsten Gillibrand
Jul 4 · 7 min read

Our Independence Day celebrates the bravery of revolutionaries who dared to dream of a better future. They fought for freedom from tyranny, and out of the ashes of that war, created the greatest experiment the world has ever known: our democracy.

We’ve strived to build a more perfect union and live up to the values America was founded on since the beginning, and our work is far from done. But at the core of who we are as a nation is a sacred principle: The power of our government stems not from one ruler, but from the people.

We’re not doing enough to uphold that principle. Right now, special interests are drowning out the voices of the people in our politics. Megadonors have outsized influence over our laws, and industry profits are prioritized over families. Gridlock has paralyzed our ability to make progress.

Our government can’t work for the people when it’s infected by greed and corruption — and we can’t accomplish any of our other progressive goals until we fix this problem. That’s why today, I’m laying out my plan to strengthen our democracy and restore power to the people.

Only by getting money out of politics, protecting and expanding voting rights, and bringing transparency to Washington can we truly have a government that works, and works for everyone. Here’s what I’ll prioritize as president:

Establish clean elections to get money out of politics

Almost every major problem facing American families today can be traced back to the undue influence of money in politics. When the NRA wants to prevent gun reform, they funnel money into the campaigns of candidates nationwide to make sure they don’t vote for common sense gun violence prevention measures. Insurance companies do the same to block Medicare for All and prevent us from guaranteeing health care as a right, not a privilege. The story is the same with polluters, drug companies, oil companies, and more.

The only solution is to get big, unaccountable money out of politics. We need to make elected officials answer to voters instead of special interests.

Experts agree that I’m the only candidate in the field with a comprehensive plan to tackle this problem with clean, publicly funded elections. It’s modeled off a program that’s already been successfully implemented in Seattle.

Here’s how it works: Every eligible voter can opt in to receive $200 worth of “democracy dollars” they can give to the campaigns of their choosing, for each federal election. Federal candidates can opt in to receive these donations if they meet the qualifying threshold and agree to cap all individual cash donations at $200. We’ll pay for it by closing the loophole that subsidizes excessively high CEO compensation, which would raise more than $60 billion in ten years.

We can radically change how our politics works with clean elections, plain and simple. Instead of courting wealthy donors, candidates will go to every community and talk to every voter, and become more responsive and representative of their constituents. We’ll bring more voices to the table in our politics, empowering more women, people of color, and young people to participate. And political power won’t be determined by wealth — imagine the country we could build if the Parkland kids had as much political power as the Koch brothers.

Protect and expand voting rights

Republicans have been waging a flagrant assault on the voting rights of Americans of color, in an effort to decrease the turnout of traditionally Democratic voters. Their efforts are racist and un-American — and ever since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, it’s more important than ever that we fight back by making voting more accessible for everyone.

As president, I’ll take some important steps to protect the right to vote and expand access to voting:

  • I’ll update the voter registration system nationwide, and make same-day and online voter registration available everywhere.
  • I’ll create automatic voter registration for every eligible 18-year-old.
  • I’ll make Election Day a federal holiday to make it easier for many voters to go to the polls.
  • I’ll restore the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • I’ll make sure that every single vote is counted — including Americans overseas, in the military, and stationed at embassies and consulates around the world.
  • I’ll make sure voting is accessible, including for voters with disabilities.
  • I’ll establish independent citizen-run redistricting commissions that ensure that districts accurately reflect the preferences of voters statewide.
  • I’ll prevent voter suppression by ending voter roll purges, ensuring sufficient polling stations and poll workers to reduce barriers to voting, creating a voter protection hotline for people who are stopped from lawfully voting, and reauthorizing the Election Assistance Commission.
  • I’ll protect the integrity of the U.S. Census and ensure that nobody is intimidated out of being counted.

These steps will not only empower more voters to participate in our democracy, but will ensure everyone can vote free from intimidation or barriers to exercising their rights — no matter who they are or where they live.

Last but not least, I’ll take action to protect our elections from the real and present threat of foreign interference. I’ll protect the integrity of our elections by requiring paper ballots, reinforcing elections security, and holding accountable any country or entity that attempts to undermine our democracy.

Combat corruption and bring transparency and accountability to our government

If we want our democracy to truly represent the people, it has to be a responsive democracy. That means we can’t stop at getting money out of politics and making our elections more accessible. We need our elected officials to become more transparent so voters can know their representatives are truly working for them.

When I first got to Congress, I went against the “way things were done” (and the advice of my colleagues and staff) and published my schedules and earmark requests online, so that my constituents knew everyone I was meeting with in Washington. At the time, this level of transparency was stunning to many — but to me, it was the only way to honor the principle that elected officials work for the people. As president, I will require members of Congress and high-ranking federal officials like the president and members of their Cabinet do the same.

We’re seeing first-hand how an Administration can ignore ethics norms and rules to profit off their positions with no recourse — that has to end. So as president, I’ll require all members of Congress and high-ranking federal officials to release their taxes, financial disclosures, and conflicts of interest. I’ll also give the Office of Government Ethics subpoena power and the authority to negotiate prohibitions on conflicts of interest, work to strengthen the Office of Congressional Ethics in the House, and create an ethics watchdog for the Senate. While we’re at it, I’ll create new, stricter standards for the president so he or she can no longer be above the law.

I’ll also require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns — like I led the 2020 field in doing, by becoming the first candidate to release my 2018 return and the eleven previous years’ worth.

Part of the reason corruption thrives in Washington is that public office is being used as a stepping stone to a corner office in a lobbying firm. I’ll stop the revolving door between government and lobbying once and for all, starting with establishing a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and high-ranking federal officials. I’ll also ban lobbyist fundraising and bundling. Elected officials are supposed to represent constituents — not special interests or their own bottom line — and I’ll reorder the system so that they do.

Finally, I’ll establish a new Office of Equity to create oversight and fairness in who benefits from expenditures and policies enacted in Washington. Eradicating corruption in our democracy is good and crucial; ensuring our democracy actually works for everyone is the ultimate goal.


There are a lot of exciting ideas being proposed and discussed in this race. But to accomplish any of them, we have to fix the fundamentally broken pieces of our government, ensure every voter has a real say in our democracy, and unstick the wheel of progress.

Americans deserve a government that lives up to the promise of democracy at its best: a government that works for everyone, that solves our most pressing problems, and that is truly by and for the people. As president, I’ll fight to ensure that every voice in our great American experiment is heard.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Written by

Mom to Theo, Henry and dog Maple. Wife to Jonathan. U.S. Senator from NY and candidate for president. Text BRAVE to 60980 to get updates from Gillibrand 2020!

BraveWins

BraveWins

Your source for everything Gillibrand 2020.

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